2013 Festival Performers
Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line (Headlining)
Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line are a traveling Carnival of acoustic Americana. The high energy, Nashville-based quintet perform Struthers’ original story-songs with tight, three-part harmonies, fiddle, claw-hammer banjo, acoustic guitar, bass, and drums.
Struthers was catapulted into the spotlight when she lead her band to a blue ribbon at the prestigious 2010 Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition (previous winners include Nickel Creek and The Dixie Chicks) and now her group is touring heavily in support of their upcoming album release, Carnival.
“When you go to a carnival, you go into a sideshow tent, and on every stage you find a different person with a different story,” says Nora Jane Struthers. “That’s why I’m trying to do with this album – craft vignettes, and in some cases more developed narratives, about imaginary people’s lives.”
Nora Jane Struthers steps forward with a distinctive sound and on-stage style – her personal collection of vintage dresses makes her one of the most visually striking of modern acoustic artists. But the moving, perceptive, and witty songs on Carnival represent a new quantum leap, born of hard work and deep creative reflection. “Over the past three years, as I’ve been touring and performing, I realized that primarily I’m a storyteller,” she says. “I’ve been working to hone my skills so I can do that better.”
After listening to Carnival, no one will deny the keen edge of Struthers’ masterful new work. The album marks the recording debut of Struthers’ touring band, the Party Line (which takes its handle from one of the record’s songs, about the early days of rural telephone calls). The gifted group of instrumentalists includes Struthers’ longtime collaborator P. J. George (upright bass, harmony vocals, pedal steel guitar, accordion and banjo), Joe Overton (clawhammer banjo and harmony vocals), Aaron Jonah Lewis (fiddle, three-finger banjo, baritone fiddle, mandolin) and Drew Lawhorn (drums).
Special Guest Appearance: Jim Blum
Jim Blum is heard around the world on www.folkalley.com, a 24/7 folk music stream with a companion website full of photos. He also recently retired from hosting folk music programs in Northeast Ohio on the NPR affiliate 89.7 FM, WKSU every weekend for 32 years.
Jim's goal early on was to give folk artists the same professional platform that classical musicians were already receiving on the radio. His charm was in being able to reach out of that radio into the hearts of his listeners, endearing him to thousands by weaving in his love for the music with his passion for nature, country living, and rescue animals of which he has 10.
Through his early programs his audience discovered Bela Fleck and Alison Krauss for the first time, and Jim continued to introduce bright new talents until his recent retirement in January. He has received countless awards, including a first place PRNDI (Public Radio News Directors Inc.) for his interview with Judy Collins and a Cleveland Press Club award for Best Use of Sound for his environmental series "Beyond the Backyard." Jim is also an actor having appeared in over 100 industrial films and stage productions. He plans to become one of the first to climb Mt. Rainier with a replacement hip.
Bob and Wendy
Bob and Wendy
Bob Bellamy and Wendy Barlow are traditional musicians in central Ohio. Their music is a unique blending of two ancient multi-stringed instruments, the hammered dulcimer and the harp. This impressive pairing alone is enough to invite the attention and appreciation of any listener. Their gifts however lie in the level of sensitivity, musicianship and love that they bring to their music and to these instruments.
Wendy began her musical training on the piano as a child in Maryland, an experience that served both her hands well when she later fell in love with the sounds of the harp. She then had the privilege to privately study with legendary harpist Alice Chalifoux at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Her love for music and a passion for history combine in her ability to discover music from an earlier time, and breath it back to life.
Bob is a refreshingly different kind of hammered dulcimer player. Accomplished on the mandolin and guitar in the old time and bluegrass world, he was smitten by the hammered dulcimer back when they were hard to find. From his farm in rural Ohio he became a builder by necesity and took to the instrument naturally, developing a fluid style uniquely his own.
Bob and Wendy perform for weddings, corporate and academic events, music festivals, distinguished artisan shows and concerts. Wendy is a “preferred” musician for Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens and she played for afternoon tea at the Ritz Carlton for 10 years. Bob is also a sound engineer/producer and owner of a recording studio.
The string band ensemble Mr. Haney plays traditional Appalachian music the way it's meant to be played – on fiddles, banjo, guitar and bass. With its roots in England, Scotland, Ireland and Africa, southern old-time tunes are guaranteed to get toes tapping and feet dancing, and occasional songs paint pictures of days gone by. The band Mr. Haney is from Northeast Ohio and is comprised of Jim Eisenberg on claw hammer banjo, Laura Lewis Kovac on fiddle and feet, Jim Richards on guitar, Ken Roby on fiddle, mandolin and banjo, and Nancy Tozer on bass.
Children's songs led by Pete and Lisa McDonald at Raccoon County
Solo musician Pete McDonald, on guitar/harmonica/vocals, grew up on a farm in Chardon, OH, and he’s been writing songs since he first picked up the guitar at age 16. He chairs the Raccoon County Music Festival, coming Aug. 13 in Burton. Since 2004, Pete McDonald has been performing regularly at notable Cleveland, Ohio venues like the Beachland Ballroom and the Barking Spider.
Rachel & the Beatnik Playboys
Retro honky-tonkers Rachel & The Beatnik Playboys are the local headliners at the Blue Sky Folk Fest. In one life, Rachel is a Cleveland west side middle school music teacher with a master’s degree.
In her other life, Rachel & The Beatnik Playboys play old time roots/Americana, honky-tonk, blues, country, jazz and all music loved by these four professional musicians. Rachel has opened for many top artists including Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Listening to Rachel’s home page song snippets takes us back to Patsy Cline on early 1960s country radio and 1970s bluesy Bonnie Raitt.
Spoon Too Soon
Spoon Too Soon
This Northeast Ohio acoustic duo features husband-and-wife musicians and vocalists Lenora and Bob Yocum. With a blend of voices that were born to sing together, Lenora and Bob formed Spoon Too Soon in 2010. Together, Spoon Too Soon offers the best in upbeat and off-beat songs. Their loving interactions provide the listener with a pleasant refuge from any troubles of the mind.
Their blend of original, Americana, folk and country brings smooth harmony using guitar, fiddle and spoons . Bob and Lenora are adept at working with the audience and making them part of their performance, giving the kind of show that only comes from the heart.
Bob has performed in local bands for many years. He was in Better than Bacon, the Hot Foot Quartet, Whiskey River Band, and still plays with Abbey Rodeo on fiddle, mandolin, guitar, harmonica, as well as singing vocals.
Hamboning by PJ
Clogging by Laura Lewis
Guitar Maintenance & Repair, by Pat Podpadec, Luthier, Wood-n-Strings
Spooning Lessons by Spoon Too Soon
Storytelling by Watchful Lynx, a member of the Lenape Nation